The mental return to work

You’ve carried out your COVID-19 Risk Assessment, implemented the procedures and prepared the workplace. Now, how do you prepare your people?

COVID-19 has been a world of unknowns and we are still facing this today. If you watch the news you’ll know the government keep changing their minds; for now, it is up to us employers to decide, ‘Do we go back to our workplace?’.

It’s a lot of pressure to be tasked with preparing a workplace and shouldering the responsibility to the people who are returning. We’ve had many conversations with small businesses over the past few months about this and we continue to on a daily basis.

What are people worried about?

Create the space for employees to talk to you about their concerns. The risks to people’s health is psychological as well as physical; remember their concerns are real:

  • Some may fear getting infected
  • Some may live with or have caring responsibilities for a vulnerable person (even though the government has said those that were shielding can return to work, it doesn’t take away the fact they may be living with someone who is vulnerable)
  • Some may not drive and can only use public transport to get to work and are anxious about doing so
  • Some may have experienced the death of a friend or family member, whether from COVID-19 directly or during a period where grief has been remote and strange

How can you help?

Reassurance/communication is key:

  • Senior management should acknowledge that employee anxiety about returning to work is reasonable – COVID-19 is still a real and present threat.
  • Consistently reiterate that their health, wellbeing and safety is your top priority and what steps you have put in place to make the work environment safe.
  • Make sure everyone knows what rules and procedures they should follow, especially if they begin to feel unwell.
  • Reassure staff to speak up if they feel unsafe for any reason.
  • Reminders of any employee benefits that can help. For example, an Employee Assistance Programme can offer up to 10 free counselling sessions per employee.
  • Encourage all line managers to have one to one meetings with their direct reports. These should be diarised prior to and after returning, with regularity. Remember to put the emphasis on you being a supportive and caring employer.
  • Meaningfully ask ‘How are you?’, and be prepared to listen and offer support.

It’s more important than ever for anyone who is responsible for people to be equipped to spot potential signs of poor mental health. We’re fully accredited to deliver Mental Health First Aid qualifications, which can be a cost effective preventative measure for absences related to mental health. More information on this can be found on our events page.

If you’d like a free chat about the return to work, furlough or any other HR matters, Lisa has opened up her diary – there’s no obligation or sales pitch, just valuable, expert advice.

Lisa Trent is our HR guru

There really isn’t very much to do with people that she doesn’t know about! Whether it’s furloughing or people management, she’s on hand to help, but also listen.


Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn

Can we help?

Many businesses are struggling during this crisis and we want to help. Find out what support we can offer to you and your employees. Please get in touch – we’d be delighted to chat with you.